The first-round KHL playoffs series are all three games in at this point, and as usual some teams have one foot in the second round already while others are facing a lot more hockey before things are settled. Some firsts and mosts and fastests have cropped up as well in this first post-season week, so read on for a quick look at how each series is going.
(underlined numbers are the series scores in games, but you had probably figured that out already)
(1) Metallurg Magnitogorsk 3-0 (8) Kunlun Red Star Beijing
Credit to Kunlun Red Star, who have not only been in all three games (despite giving up two goals in a playoff-record seven seconds in the opening match), but held Sergei Mozyakin pointless in the first two. Magnitka, though, have too many weapons, and Oskar Osala stepped up with a hat-trick in Game 2 (my colleague Arto Palovaara has a piece about Osala here). When Mozyakin did find the range again, with a goal and an assist in Game 3, he crossed the 1000-point mark for his career — the first player ever to do so in Russian hockey. For the Beijing side, Zach Yuen’s Game 2 goal was the first ever by a Chinese player in the KHL playoffs.
(2) Avangard Omsk Oblast 2-1 (7) Admiral Vladivostok
Trailing 2-0 in the series, Admiral snatched a vital victory in Game 3 thanks to Maxim Kazakov’s late winner. It was the 23-year-old’s second goal of the game, and league-leading fourth of the playoffs (he scored 10 in 50 regular-season games). Only one out of six overtime games so far in these playoffs has featured East Conference teams, and it was Game 1 in this series. That game was also the longest so far, as the teams played 45 extra minutes before Alexander Kucheryavenko won it for Avangard.
(3) Ak Bars Kazan 2-1 (6) Salavat Yulaev Ufa
The Green Derby has been everything one could ask for, with all three games decided by a single goal. Game 2 was particularly dramatic, as Atte Ohtamaa’s winner for Ak Bars officially arrived at 19:59.96 of the third period. Salavat Yulaev, who badly needed a win in Game 3 and got it, were happy to see Linus Omark back from injury to start the series, and the diminutive Swede has scored 1-2-3 so far. The Ufa side’s goalie, Niklas Svedberg, is currently holding the third-best save percentage in the playoffs, at .934.
(4) Traktor Chelyabinsk 1-2 (5) Barys Astana
This is the only series in which the lower seed currently leads, as the Kazakh team has its nose in front despite the absence through injury of key forward Brandon Bochenski. Nigel Dawes, who scored 36 goals for Barys this season, already has three in the playoffs. Traktor forward Vitaly Kravtsov, who just turned 17 in December, has played only 10 minutes in the entire series, but his Game 1 goal made him the youngest-ever scorer in KHL playoff history. Barys’ opener in the same game, by Konstantin Pushkaryov just 11 seconds in, was the quickest goal ever in a KHL playoff game.
(1) CSKA Moscow 3-0 (8) Jokerit Helsinki
This one has been closer than it might appear, with Games 2 and 3 both going to overtime, but make no mistake: CSKA have been the better team, as their seeding suggests they should be. Defenceman Bogdan Kiselevich has been particularly impressive for the Moscow team, with a scoring line of 2-2-4. Ville Lajunen and Tommi Huhtala, with two goals apiece, have accounted for four of Jokerit’s six strikes in the series so far. Things turned a bit ugly at the end of Game 1, but KHL’s English Twitter account found some humour in the situation; if you need a chuckle, check out this tweet and then this one.
(2) SKA St. Petersburg 3-0 (7) Vityaz Moscow Oblast
This series, on the other hand has not been closer than it appears. Vityaz have fought hard, but they’re giving up 40 shots a game and only Jakub Jeřábek and Alexander Nikulin have more than a single point (both are at 1-1-2). SKA, by contrast, already have four players with five points each: Pavel Datsyuk, Patrik Hersley, Yevgeny Dadonov, and Anton Belov. Coach Oleg Znarok’s decision to go with the experienced Mikko Koskinen in goal rather than Oleg Shestyorkin, despite the latter’s breakout season, has worked too; Koskinen has a .931 sv% so far, fifth-best among post-season goalies.
(3) Dynamo Moscow 2-1 (6) Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod
Not much separates these two teams, with all three games having required overtime. After Mikhail Biryukov’s misadventure in Game 2, Ilya Proskuryakov got the start for Torpedo in the vital Game 3, and did enough to get them to overtime where Brandon McMillan won it for the Nizhny Novgorod team. Dynamo’s Alexander Yeryomenko, for his part, has continued his brilliant 2016-17 season; he is third among playoff goalies right now with a .933 sv%.
(4) Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 3-0 (5) Dinamo Minsk
It has all gone horribly wrong for Dinamo Minsk, who were so strong down the stretch during the regular season; they’ve been outscored 14-4 over the playoff games, and 12-3 over the last two. Lokomotiv’s Brandon Kozun is your early playoff scoring leader with seven points (all assists), while his team-mate, goalie Alexei Murygin, leads the post-season with a .953 save percentage. Matt Ellison has done all he can for Dinamo, scoring two of their four goals, but the mountain appears very steep right now. An interesting note in this series, from the “You Don’t See That Every Day” file: Lokomotiv’s Andrei Loktionov has two goals in the series — both shorthanded, and both scored in the same game, about two minutes apart.